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July 09 , 2007

Disease and the Modern World: 1500 to the Present Day


‘Mark Harrison's book illuminates the threats posed by infectious diseases since 1500. He places these diseases within an international perspective, and demonstrates the relationship between European expansion and changing epidemiological patterns. The book is a significant introduction to a fascinating subject.’ Gerald N. Grob, Rutgers State University

In this lively and accessible book, Mark Harrison charts the history of disease from the birth of the modern world around 1500 through to the present day. He explores how the rise of modern nation-states was closely linked to the threat posed by disease, and particularly infectious, epidemic diseases. He examines the ways in which disease and its treatment and prevention, changed over the centuries, under the impact of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and with the advent of scientific medicine.

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For the first time, the author integrates the history of disease in the West with a broader analysis of the rise of the modern world, as it was transformed by commerce, slavery, and colonial rule. Disease played a vital role in this process, easing European domination in some areas, limiting it in others. Harrison goes on to show how a new environment was produced in which poverty and education rather than geography became the main factors in the distribution of disease.

Assuming no prior knowledge of the history of disease, Disease and the Modern World provides an invaluable introduction to one of the richest and most important areas of history. It will be essential reading for all undergraduates and postgraduates taking courses in the history of disease and medicine, and for anyone interested in how disease has shaped, and has been shaped by, the modern world.

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